For many modern businesses, the success of their business is determined by the success of their website. A successful website in turn needs a successful user experience (UX). Getting the UX right is an ongoing process throughout the life cycle of your business.
This means that critiquing a site’s user experience is a fundamental activity in sustaining a successful business. Looking at ways to improve the UX, understanding how it works and discovering if there are more effective approaches to its design are all parts of that process.
Naturally, some approaches to critique are more effective than others but all good approaches should include at least some of the same concepts and ideas.
If your site is already open to the public then there are a number of ways you can get a broad range of feedback. If the site is still in development then you are more reliant on the skills, experience and understanding of your developers and the methodology being used in the UX design.
Personas are an important and useful asset in the feedback process. One important function they play is to provide consensus for everyone involved with development. They also help to keep developers focused on the critical requirements of the UX. Reviewing personas regularly and even refining them when necessary is key to successful critiquing of the UX.
Testing prototypes, even rudimentary pen and paper prototypes, is also an invaluable part of the process. Many businesses, particularly startups, write off this kind of testing until they have a working iteration. In doing so they are missing a critical opportunity to get feedback about their systems and in particular the UX.
UX critique can too easily get stuck focusing on what someone doesn’t like about the site or what they feel doesn’t work. Typically though these are not the most useful areas to concentrate on. It is important in guiding the critique of the UX to take the opportunity to explore ideas.
Asking how something can be done better is far more valuable than subjectively stating that it is inadequate or ineffective. This approach also minimises stress and tension within the critiquing group where subjective statements can often be taken personally.
Exploration not only engages and exercises the creative faculties of the development team but most importantly it leads to alternative and unique methods of approaching User Experience design. This can be particularly useful for core areas of User Experience design such as Information Architecture.
Findings from these explorations can then be returned to the feedback process through A/B and other forms of testing to generate more actionable data.
Constantly reviewing and refining goals helps to ensure you remain on track but also ensures those goals make sense in light of developments. Often through the critiquing process certain concepts are revealed to be less practical than they might have seemed in theory.
As with any area of a business, an ongoing process of critiquing helps to ensure a system is working optimally and carrying out its desired purpose. This is particularly important for the User Experience of business critical websites.
User experience is one of the shared modules on our BSc Honours Degree in Digital Technology, Design and Innovation. It is a vital part of all digital products and an area that we take great pride in teaching.